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Town stands up against business park plan PDF Print E-mail
Written by JOE POIRIER   
Wednesday, 21 February 2018 17:29

Bolstered by residents’ concerns, board approves resolution opposing village proposal to annex 114 acres

    The Town of Grafton has officially gone on record opposing the Village of Grafton’s plans to annex town land for a business park.
    The Town Board on Feb. 14 unanimously approved a resolution objecting to the proposal during a meeting attended by more than 30 residents.
     “We never have done anything like this before, which underscores the uniqueness of this,” Town Chairman Lester Bartel said.
    “The village has annexed close to 800 acres over the last 25 years, and we never filed a formal objection.”
    MLG Properties, a commercial real-estate firm, is negotiating the purchase of 114 acres of farmland, which could be annexed by the village to develop the business park at the northwest corner of Highway C and Ulao Road.
    The resolution states the land is not contiguous to the village’s boundary for commercial, industrial and business use, calling it “balloon on a string” annexation.
    It also states the annexation will make it impossible for the town to effectively administer ordinances and manage current and future land use planning.
    “The village’s plans are detrimental to both municipalities’ development and the needs of the community at large,” the resolution states.   
    In 2016, the village contracted with MLG to conduct feasibility studies of several sites with an eye toward establishing a business park.
    A concept plan for the Highway C site shows 15 business-park lots ranging in size from 4.2 to 9.1 acres extending from Highway C west nearly to the railroad tracks that run along the east side of I-43.
    The land would have to be annexed into the village and rezoned from agricultural to a planned industrial district.
    The village would be responsible for infrastructure improvements for the project, and officials plan to create a tax incremental financing district to pay for the work.
    However, a number of residents voiced  concern that the business park and TIF district could take potential property tax revenue away from the Grafton School District.
    “We’re always looking to increase enrollment. Every school district is in competition for families and students,” School Board President Terry Ziegler told Ozauke Press.
    “We can grow our funds by growing our enrollment. We are in favor of having as many families move into our district as possible. That’s our slant. We want to see that all of these places, first and foremost, become neighborhoods.”   
    Some village residents who oppose the proposed TIF district are circulating a petition against the business park’s funding mechanism. A feasibility study shows the preliminary cost for the TIF district is $8.9 million and the potential revenue would be $13 million after 20 years.
    During a Village Board meeting Feb. 19, about 30 town and village residents were in attendance to speak about the business park, which wasn’t on the agenda.
    “Obviously, it’s (the business park) an eyesore for everybody out there,”village resident Tony Tagliapietra said during the meeting’s public comment portion, which lasted more than 40 minutes.
    “From a village standpoint, I get the TIF when it first started at Home Depot, but it can be done now because there’s been enough demand.
    “In the TIF downtown, we have Pick ’n Save and other various stores sitting vacant. Let’s focus our TIF on that district.
    “The schools are not seeing a kickback from these corporations that are moving in. We have baseball parks in desperate need for sponsorship and none of these companies are doing anything. We have a park looking for an upgrade and a sponsor.
    “I just feel like we’re handing out everything and we’re getting nothing back. Let’s keep building residentially to get property taxes back into the school system.”
    Other residents concurred. They also mentioned their concerns about excessive traffic and potential water pollution in their wells.
    “I moved from Chicago to be near a beautiful environment. We’re sitting on a gold mine in Grafton,” said town resident Mike Scherman.
    “We’re going to turn a lot of people away from moving here. We don’t want an industrial park on prime Lake Michigan property.”
    The Village Board did not respond after the public comments, but Village President Jim Brunnquell said he will take the residents’ concerns into consideration.
    “All the comments tonight were legitimate, and I truly believe those residents really have heartfelt reasons for opposing the project,” he said.

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